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Black History Month / Today's Voices : Perspectives on the Past--and the Future

February 22, 1994

From the African American who owned much of what is now the San Fernando Valley in the 1790s to the high school student who has devoted himself to keeping his peers out of gangs, people of African descent in the Valley have a long, proud history.

In this special report, we look back at some of that history and--with the help of several voices from the present--turn to the future.

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IDA KENNEY / 'Drugs Are Our Worst Enemy'

Ida Kenney, 86, is a member of the Pacoima Over 50 Seniors Club and one of the founding members of the Greater Community Missionary Baptist Church--the first African American church in the San Fernando Valley.

"The drugs are our worst enemy because the young people are destroying their lives and they won't be able to participate in society. These young people are involved in dope and they destroy their minds. Then all they want to do is rob and steal.

"It's tearing up our community and the country. It's always worse in our community because the government won't put one penny out here for these black boys. They want them in jail.

"The main cause of our youngsters being so low in morale is that the majority of black males are in jail. They don't have any other choice. They don't have any other jobs.

"I haven't been to church at night in four years. And there are a lot of other places I'd like to go at night. But I can't go. I'm not safe because of crime and dope. It's prevented me from enjoying my life as a senior citizen. Our dreams are smashed because of the system of allowing dope and crime to run the country.

"Any ordinary person could run this state better than it's being run. Instead of building more jails, we should make great big farms and let these boys learn to raise tomatoes and all kinds of fruits. Let them learn how to do something rather than watch TV and study how to be stronger gangsters."

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